Tag Archives: museums

Museum tour

How time passes

We know we’re all getting old – even though we don’t like to admit it – when the aircraft we flew as pilots or worked on as engineers are being put out to pasture and into museums to be restored. Here’s information on a couple of museums that are working on the restoration of aircraft formerly owned and operated by Viking Helicopters Ltd.

  • Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum – Bell 47J-2 serial #1827 CF-PQZ. Plans are to restore this machine to present serial #1839 registration CF-CAF, which was a Canadian Coast Guard machine based in the Atlantic region during service with the Coast Guard. The museum is located at the Halifax International Airport beside the Quality Inn. [The page on the Bell 47J-2 seems to have disappeared.]

If you know of others, let me know and I’ll put them up.

CF-ODM in flight over Newfoundland - 1969

CF-ODM – Newfoundland 1969

CF-ODM

Early in 1969, Viking Helicopters Ltd. was born in “the old schoolhouse” just west of Orleans, Ontario using the licence that formerly belonged to Spartan Air Services. Larry Camphaug, Ray Coursol, John Juke and Gerry O’Neil, together with the indomitable Wulf doing transmission overhauls, were already hard at work as part of Mercury Aviation Limited’s employees.

CF-ODM in the Bushplane Museum in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario - 2009

CF-ODM in the Bushplane Museum in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario – 2009

Larry had started Mercury Aviation as a helicopter overhaul company a few years earlier. Component overhauls were the bread and butter of the business in those early days. His “hanger” was an old barn just a short drive away to the west where the airframe overhauls were done.

Larry hired me as a pilot, but early service put me in the position of apprentice engineer, so off I went to buy the basic tools I needed based on the advice of Gerry O’Neil and others.

I worked in the schoolhouse, supervised by the full-time engineers. The schoolhouse was next to an apple orchard. Later on, I’d occasionally climb the fence and steal apples. I was told that there were dogs guarding the orchard, but I never saw any.

A pilot finally does some work pumping the float

A pilot finally does some work pumping the float at the Universal Hanger in Gander.

The barn, just down the road, was where the former Bell 47D, CF-ODM, now converted to a Bell 47G-2, was being overhauled. As a young apprentice engineer, I helped Gerry O’Neil and John Kowalski in the overhaul process. I don’t know if they wanted to get me out of the schoolhouse due to my incompetence or whether I had “graduated”. In any case, I learned a lot in that barn, well-taught by Gerry and John.

From time to time, the bunch of us would drive over to the Orleans Hotel for a beer, beans and bread lunch. Sometimes, on Friday’s extended lunch, we would shut the place down, thanks to the fine looking French-Canadian girls who slung beer in the joint. It was all their fault.

Or, quite possibly not.

Beans, beer & bank robbers

During one of these expeditions to the hotel, we noticed a car parked in the middle of the road. We later found out that the vehicle had been used in a bank robbery that day. Little did we know. We were all too concentrated on our drive to lunch to notice.

Lorne Ward was an apprentice engineer. He too came over from Niagara Helicopters. He flew out to Newfoundland and accompanied me that summer. Here it looks at though he needs some refreshment.

Lorne was an apprentice engineer. He too came over from Niagara Helicopters in 1969. He flew out to Newfoundland and accompanied me that summer. Here, it looks at though he’s taking a refreshing pause. Lorne became an engineer, and later, a pilot.

Once the overhaul was completed, I did the test flights and subsequent ferry flight east to Sydney, Nova Scotia, where I landed on the fantail of the M.V. William Carson for the crossing to Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland. The helicopter had been wet-leased to Universal Helicopters for the summer.

I had an amazing time traversing the entire province in the three months and 170-odd hours I flew her. Not noted for many warm, sunny days, Newfoundland had one of the brightest and warmest summers on record. For a young aviator in the second year of his career, that eventful summer was an adventure not to be forgotten.

CF-ODM with Universal-EPA floats. We were wet-leased to Universal Helicopters

CF-ODM with Universal-EPA floats. We were wet-leased to Universal Helicopters. Eastern Provincial Airways had just bought Universal from Gary Fields.

In all, my flying career was extremely successful, thanks not only to Larry, but to the many others I encountered over the life of my flying career. The engineers and apprentice engineers who kept our equipment airworthy and safe did a marvelous job under difficult circumstances, in isolated places, all around the world.

Thank you to each and every one of you.

John Juke left us in 2011.